Fenway Tackles Health Disparities in LGBTQ Youth of Color


LGBTQ Youth of color are at higher risk than their counterpart Caucasian LGBT youth and the heterosexual youth of color.

BOSTON, Massachusetts — The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded The Fenway Institute a three-year, $800,000 grant to address health disparities in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) youth of color, through the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). This funding will allow Fenway to establish a community-based research initiative to create and pilot interventions to address those disparities.  BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth), JRI Health, Fenway’s Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center, and the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth are partners on the grant.

Evidence indicates that LGBTQ youth of color use substances (including alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs), engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt suicide in high rates disproportionate to those of both white LGBTQ youth and heterosexual youth of color.  Such evidence underscores the pressing need for interventions to improve the health of LGBTQ youth of color, many of whom face “tricultural” experiences of stigma: homophobia from their racial/ethnic groups, racism from the LGBTQ community, and the intersection of homophobia and racism from the culture at large.

“This grant provides a remarkable opportunity for Fenway and our partners. Our work will be based on the Positive Youth Development model – helping young people to achieve their full potential. We aim to learn how they can achieve the healthy lives everyone is entitled to and what our partners and supporters can do to make this easier,” said Judith B. Bradford, PhD, Co-Chair of The Fenway Institute and Principal Investigator on this grant.

The project team will be supported by two Community Advisory Boards; one comprised of community program leaders and government representatives and a second comprised of LGBTQ youth of color. These leadership groups will meet together and individually. The project team will conduct a community needs assessment, compile and review existing data on health disparities and health concerns of LGBTQ youth of color, and gather their own detailed information from local youth.  The project team will then design, pilot and evaluate an intervention tailored for LGBTQ youth of color.

“In working with LGBTQ youth of color every day, we see that the combined forces of homophobia, racism and lack of social support can result in high-risk, often self-destructive behaviors.  By combining forces with experienced partners like Fenway and BAGLY, a more comprehensive approach to services can be offered that will improve the health, self-sufficiency and dignity of this population,” said John Gatto, Executive Director of JRI Health.  “We are privileged to be a partner in this effort and create long-term strategies that ensure access to care and autonomy for LGBTQ youth of color.”

“BAGLY is delighted to have this opportunity to partner with The Fenway Institute, JRI Health and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth on this important and exciting opportunity to assess the needs, and address the health disparities, of LGBT youth of color,” said Grace Sterling Stowell, BAGLY’s Executive Director.  “As the oldest and largest LGBT youth organization in Massachusetts, BAGLY has over 30 years of experience working with LGBT youth of color using a youth development approach.  We know that social and institutional racism along with anti-LGBT bias and oppression, result in significant health disparities for LGBT youth of color, and so BAGLY looks forward to joining with our community partners to improve the lives of this population.”

Arthur Lipkin, EdD, a member of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth and Chair from 2010 – 2012, responded to news of the grant, “The Commission is eager to be involved in research that targets its priority youth population for reduction of health disparities. This project helps realize my dream of partnering with the Fenway Institute to promote public policies and programs that will more effectively serve those LGBT youth whose risk has remained unconscionably high for decades.”

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities is a division of the The National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the nation’s medical research agency—making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIMHD leads scientific research to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities.

For more than forty years, Fenway Health has been working to make life healthier for the people in our neighborhood, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS and the broader population.  The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. Fenway’s Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center cares for youth and young adults ages 12 to 29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else, including those who are LGBT or just figuring things out; homeless or living on the streets; struggling with substance use or abuse; sex workers; or living with HIV/AIDS.

[From a News Release]

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